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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Photo by PA.

Australia's federal govt to cut Covid-19 income support
Australia's federal government will wind down emergency funding for people who lost work during Covid-19 shutdowns as vaccination rates increase across the country, putting pressure on state and territory leaders to keep their economies open. The decision to cut off federal support when inoculation levels reach 80% means individual states and territories would have to foot the bill if they decide to go into lockdown in response to any fresh outbreaks of the coronavirus.

The federal government, which has spent more than A$9 billion ($6.5 billion) since June to support around 2 million people, wants all internal borders reopened when the 80% vaccination threshold is reached nationally, expected in November.

Sanofi ditches mRNA Covid-19 vaccine after rivals' success
Sanofi is dropping plans for its own mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine because of the dominance achieved by BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna in using the technology to fight the pandemic, the company said on Tuesday. The company said it started testing an mRNA shot against seasonal influenza in humans in June and would launch follow-on clinical studies next year.

The mRNA Covid-19 vaccines trick the human body into producing proteins known as antigens that are found on the surface of the coronavirus that causes the disease. That primes the immune system to quell future infections. Sanofi will now focus on the more traditional protein-based vaccine approach, bioengineering the antigen in labs and combining it with an efficacy-boosting ingredient known as an adjuvant.

Italy gives Covid green light to six non-EU destinations

Italy's health ministry said on Tuesday it had given the go-ahead for travel to six non-European tourist spots - the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Egypt (but only Sharm El Sheikh and Marsa Alam), Dominican Republic and Aruba - without the need for quarantine as a Covid-19 precaution either on arrival or return.

Everyone leaving for the selected countries must have a 'Green Pass' showing Covid immunity - either due to vaccination or previous infection - and must also present a negative swab at least 48 hours before departure, according to the order signed by Health Minister Roberto Speranza.

Brazil hospital chain hid Covid-19 deaths
A Brazilian hospital chain tested unproven drugs on elderly Covid-19 patients without their knowledge as part of an effort to validate President Jair Bolsonaro's preferred 'miracle cure', a lawyer for whistleblowing doctors told senators on Tuesday. At least nine people died of Covid-19 during the trials at Prevent Senior Hospital chain from March to April 2020, but their charts were altered to hide the cause of death, lawyer Bruna Morato told a Senate inquiry.

Morato, representing 12 doctors employed at Prevent Senior, said on Tuesday the company threatened and fired doctors who disagreed with a predetermined "Covid kit" that included hydroxychloroquine, erythromycin and ivermectin. There is no scientific evidence that those drugs are beneficial in the treatment of Covid-19.

Covid-19 pill developers aim to top Merck, Pfizer efforts
As Merck & Co and Pfizer Inc prepare to report clinical trial results for experimental Covid-19 antiviral pills, rivals are lining up with what they hope will prove to be more potent and convenient oral treatments of their own.
Enanta Pharmaceuticals, Pardes Biosciences, Japan's Shionogi & Co Ltd and Novartis AG said they have designed antivirals that specifically target the coronavirus while aiming to avoid potential shortcomings such as the need for multiple pills per day or known safety issues.

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